(photo credit: Idan Gross )
LONDON – Opposition leader Tzipi Livni is expected to arrive in London on
Thursday, becoming the first senior Israeli official to visit Britain since the
controversial universal jurisdiction law, used by activists to obtain arrest
warrants for alleged war crimes, was changed.
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Last month, the British
government approved a change to the law, which previously allowed private
complaints of war crimes to be lodged against military personnel and other
officials, even if they were not British citizens and the alleged crimes were
The law was used by anti- Israel activists who could
apply to a magistrate for an arrest warrant. The change means that the director
of public prosecutions will now be required to give his consent for an arrest
warrant to be issued on the grounds of universal jurisdiction.
visit by the Israeli leader of the opposition marks the end of a long, absurd
period in which the vital dialogue between Israel and the UK was obstructed,” a
spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London said on Wednesday.
will extremists be able to abuse British law as a political tool. I hope this
legal correction will pave the way for even deeper cooperation between the two
states on strategic issues of mutual concern.”
Livni was foreign minister
during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and Operation Cast Lead in December 2008-
January 2009. Later in 2009, she was forced to cancel a trip to the UK, where
she was to address a Jewish National Fund conference in London, after an arrest
warrant was issued. The incident caused embarrassment for the British
Then-foreign minister David Miliband said at the time that
Israel was a “strategic partner” and “close friend” whose leaders should be
allowed to travel freely to the UK and meet the British government.
procedure by which arrest warrants can be sought and issued without any prior
knowledge or advice by a prosecutor is an unusual feature of the system in the
UK,” Miliband said at the time.
“The government is looking urgently at
ways in which the system might be changed to avoid this arising
Just after the Conservative Party came into government in May
2010, Foreign Minister William Hague told The Jerusalem Post
that it was
“completely unacceptable” that Israeli officials feel they could not visit the
Last month the change to the law went through
Livni will be the guest of the foreign minister and though
not confirmed, is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister David
“Ms. Livni is coming to the UK at a critical moment for the
Middle East. The foreign secretary is looking forward to discussing a range of
issues from the Middle East peace process to the impact of recent events in the
region,” a Foreign Office spokesman told the Post
A protest by
anti-Israel activists against both the change in the law and Livni’s visit is
set to take place on Thursday near the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing
Street in central London. A counter-demonstration to take place at the same time
is being organized by the Zionist Federation of the UK.
New Labor leader
Shelly Yacimovich met Wednesday with Miliband, who lost the leadership of the
British Labor Party to his brother, Ed.
According to her spokesman, they
spoke about Yacimovich’s social-democratic agenda and its connection to
diplomatic issues.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.